Song of the Day #868: ‘Where’s Summer B?’ – Ben Folds Five

Following the raucous ‘Julianne’ Ben Folds Five takes another stylistic detour with its laid-back, jazzy fourth track, ‘Where’s Summer B?’

The “Summer” in the title is actually a woman’s name — an old friend named Summer Burke — but it might just as well refer to the season, as this certainly feels like a summer song. It skips along like a kid on a sidewalk chasing the ice cream truck. To quote one YouTube commenter, “you can not be angry and listen to this song at the same time.”

This song is a great example of how Folds brings his real circle of friends (and enemies) into songs that still manage to feel universal. All of the people he refers to are real (most notably Darren, the band’s drummer, whose girlfriend apparently made time with this Joe Caparo fellow). But it doesn’t matter that we don’t know Summer, Joe, Ross, Frank or Dave.

Because we know people like them… we know our own versions of them. We know the places we come from and the places we wanted to go. Maybe we’re the Summer B. in this story, and a host of people are back in our hometown wondering what we’ve been up to. Or maybe we’re the ones who want to fly away and settle down.

I’d like to tell you
Like to tell you
Tell you everything
‘Cause nothing changes
Ever changes
Doesn’t seem the same these days

Dave’s been a mess since Cheryl left
Just sits at home
And beats back death
And Beth still wears that
Stupid dress

CHORUS
There goes Joe Caparo again
With Darren’s girlfriend
They’re asking where you been
Like I know
Where ya been
Hey Summer, where ya been?

I tried to tell you
Tried to tell you
Took a little bit too long
And now your phone is disconnected
And your shit’s out on the lawn

The Hardback Cafe closed down
Now we’ve got Office Town
You should have stuck around ’cause

There goes Ross and Frank again
They’re holding hands
They’re asking where ya been
Like I know where ya been
Hey Summer, where ya been?

I could take a train or fly away
Maybe write a book
And change my name
I could settle down

There goes Joe Caparo again
Hey, that’s Darren’s girlfriend!
There’s Ross and Frank
They’re holding hands
They’ve been asking where ya been
Hey Summer, where ya been?
I’ll smoke a bowl with Caleb
We’ll fly away or settle down
But hey, hey Summer, where ya been?

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7 thoughts on “Song of the Day #868: ‘Where’s Summer B?’ – Ben Folds Five

  1. Amy says:

    I like this song, though I’ve never spent a moment thinking about the lyrics before today. Which is odd considering how much I appreciate the Ben Folds songs I do love FOR their lyrics….

    Not sure what that’s all about. Regardless, I wonder why Ben never got the scrutiny Taylor Swift gets for naming names. Hmmm…..

  2. Clay says:

    I think that’s because Taylor names the names of famous people while Ben names the names of unknowns. Perhaps he gets scrutiny in some suburban pocket of North Carolina but that’s not going to make EW.

  3. Dana says:

    Another great song, and, going back to yesterday’s song (and Amy’s criticism thereof), the fact that “Julianne” is sandwiched by “Philosophy” and “Summer B” is what actually raises the stock of “Julianne” in showing the stylistic diversity of Folds.

    What I’ve always appreciated about “Summer B” is the deceptively complex beat of the drums and bass playing against the piano and vocals. That is not as easy to play as it might otherwise seem when you hear it, yet BFF makes the whole thing seem effortless and second nature.

  4. Joe says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever responded to one of these name-check reviews before, but here goes (thank you, Google alerts).

    So I’m the Joe from the song. The characters are real people, but the events are purely Ben’s invention (as far as I know).

    I lived with Robert (Sledge) around the time BFF got together. One day, Ben came by the place I worked and mentioned that he thought my name had a rhyming cadence (an opinion with which even I would agree) and wondered whether I’d mind him using it in a song.

    I told him that I didn’t mind, although John Lennon’s response (“we need money first”) would’ve been more humorous. So that’s where it came from; Ben happened to be sitting in the Hardback Cafe (once a real place) and I walked by with Summer, eliciting Ben’s lyrical response.

    Summer and I were just friends, by the way; still are, in that long-distance Facebook kind of way. I still see Robert around, and even Darren on occasion; Ben was here last week but our paths didn’t cross. Life’s funny that way.

  5. Clay says:

    Thanks for stopping by, Joe. Must be pretty cool to be immortalized in a song as great as this one!

  6. Joe says:

    Thanks, Clay; it’s not something I usually bring up in casual conversation. Some people apparently feel compelled to, though, at which point I usually say that the song is about my father, whose name I share.

    So ultimately it’s neither a good thing nor a bad thing; it is interesting/ironic to think, however, that at some point in the future this might be the sole surviving digital residue of my existence.

    So it goes, right?

  7. jack says:

    “The worst thing that could possibly happen to anybody would be to not be used for anything by anybody. Thank you for using me, even though I didn’t want to be used by anybody.” -The Sirens of Titan by K.V.

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